Why Pokemon GO is good news for our kids

 (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

A new hunting season has begun and fortunately for whitetail deer and ruffed grouse, the hunters are not using guns.  Instead, they are armed with smartphones and tablets and their prey are Pokémon characters.  If you have recently travelled to any large outdoor area like a mall, park, or stadium, it is likely you have seen these new hunters in action.

Augmented reality (AR) applications and games, like Pokémon GO, are likely to become even more popular and sophisticated in the years to come. This first iteration, while revolutionary, is the “Atari” of AR gaming. Future games will likely further blur the line between the digital and physical world.

This reality drives home the need to prepare young people to navigate today’s complex media landscape and to author their own narratives using new media tools like AR.

Parents and teachers invest a tremendous amount of time and resources to readying kids with traditional reading and print media skills.  While this remains a worthy investment, we must also ensure we amplify traditional literacy with the skills required to communicate using emerging tools.

Augmented reality applications show tremendous potential as platforms for helping children build media literacy skills. Simply playing a game like Pokémon GO requires students to keep track of combat power and the wide range of character strengths and abilities can help kids build their math and memory abilities.  Using a digital map during play to locate game characters can help kids build geo-spatial skills as well.

AR authoring applications like Aurasma show even more promise as learning tools.  Aurasma, available as a free download from the Apple App Store and Android Marketplace, allows users to create their own digital tags on physical objects. 

The popularity of games like Pokémon GO reminds us that we all can do more to ensure our children are being prepared for the technology-saturated world they will inherit.

Tools like Aurasma are coming into their own in the classroom.  For example, teachers can tag their students’ math homework with a video where they show themselves solving a practice problem. 

They can also invite older students to create AR summaries for the covers of the books in the school library, allowing younger students to see the tags when selecting books to read. 

Aurasma can also help teachers create dynamic AR diagrams to help students better understand everything from the life cycle of a butterfly to the periodic table of the elements. 

Parents can also use AR with their children at home. For example, parents can create digital scavenger hunts for their kids and challenge their children to create hunts for the parents. 

Parents can also tag the dishwasher or washing machine for digital reminders for how to complete chores. 

The number of opportunities is only limited by children’s teachers’ and parents’ imaginations.

The popularity of games like Pokémon GO reminds us that we all can do more to ensure our children are being prepared for the technology-saturated world they will inherit. 

Schools can deepen their investments in maintaining cutting-edge educational technology hardware, software, and curriculum for their students. 

Teachers can improve their skills by pursuing educational technology and media literacy in their continuing education and professional development. 

Finally, parents can stay current with their children’s technology use and encourage them to develop new skills.

Augmented reality games like Pokémon GO are here to stay.  More importantly, the interconnectedness between the digital and physical world is likely to deepen.

It is important that we do our best to ready our children for that reality by harnessing new tools like AR.

Josh DeSantis is the director of the Graduate Education Program at York College of Pennsylvania.